Originally named Helvetia, this is a landlocked democratic European republic, with boundaries to the east with Liechtenstein and Austria, to the south with Italy; the west by France and finally to the north with Germany. The official name now is the Swiss Federation.
In the tenth century Switzerland was a small part of the Holy Roman Empire (q.v.) but the Swiss Confederation was established in 1291, when the ‘cantons’ or regions of Uri, Schyz and Unterwalden formed a mutual league for defence. There was a brief period of Austrian domination, producing among other things the ‘William Tell Incident’ in which a Swiss archer of note was supposed to have shot an arrow through an apple balanced (how?) on his son’s head and followed this remarkable feat by putting a second arrow through an Austrian official’s heart. The stuff of dreams, perhaps, but the Swiss believe it. (more…)